Crossroads. Help Me, Pathfinder!

I’m at a crossroad with my education. I am getting close to graduating with my Associates of Business Administration degree. (YAY!) However, I am also looking at what the future holds for me.

crossroads at night
(Used via Creative Commons, thank you dsmoljanovic!)

I am a storyteller, not as in, “the fish was this big” stories, but more so, “this is why you want to partner with us” stories. I also believe in great customer service; sales helps the bottom line grow but customer service is the key to retaining those customers. As I look at my career and what the future holds for me, I have come to the realization that I need to be working towards something greater when dealing with my education.

As you may have read in previous posts, I find it very sad that experience is not enough in this world, and that very few things that I have learned in the community college environment have been new applications to me in business. I’m certain there are things I will learn in the future that will help me in my career, but I’m having a hard time finding new things to learn, when I’ve been working for more than a decade.

3/52 Un trabajo duro / A hard work
(Used under creative commons, thank you bibigeek!)

Now that I’ve rambled on a bit, this is where I have to ask you, dear readers, for some help. As I near the end of my Associates program, I have to decide to go down one of three pathways:

1: Be done with education; take my Associates degree and run.
2: Spend more time in Community College and seek another specialized Associates Degree.
3: Pursue a Bachelors degree.

The first option is simple. Pack up my knapsack and run.

The second option is a little more difficult. I would have to do some serious soul searching to decide which program I would want to complete.
The Urn Burns (All Souls Procession)
Used under creative commons, thank you cobalt123!)

The third option is much like the second option, although I have narrowed it down to four disciplines: Communications, Public Relations, Marketing, or Journalism.
Storytelling at West Lothian libraries
(Used under creative commons, thank you Scottish Libraries!)

The reasons for one of the above four degrees are simple:

I want to tell your story.

I want to communicate with your consumers.

I want to make the consumer experience better.

Looking forward into my crystal ball, I note that I have to have a degree or pedigree, to do so. So what direction do I take?

My grandmother has always told me, “when in doubt, punt,” so I am. Any advice/observations you may have would be greatly appreciated.

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26 responses to “Crossroads. Help Me, Pathfinder!

  1. One thing I had to do for a class in college was to go out and interview community leaders in careers I was interested in. Even though it was for a class project & grade, I walked away with some great contacts, but also with some real-world viewpoints & information that helped sharpen my focus. I think it’s a valuable exercise for a class project or real life.

    Another thing to consider is talking to some of your professors to see what they think. I found that another valuable tool when I was starting to make plans for my next steps in college & career.

    • I’ve found less than lukewarm interest from my community college professors. Don’t get me wrong, some of them have been FANTASTIC, others, not so much.

      Thanks for the advice, I may have to dig a little deeper.

  2. I’m afraid that I don’t have an answer for you, but what I can say is this: whatever you decide, it will be okay. That stage just before graduate is super stressful for every student, even though it always feels like you’re alone and everyone else has their life figured out. I’m 26 and graduated five years ago and still don’t 100% have my life figured out. But don’t be paralyzed by fear of making the wrong decision, because even if what you choose ends up being the “wrong” path, you’ll still learn a lot – and no decision has to be forever. If you start down one path and it isn’t working out, you can always stop and start down a new path. 🙂

    • Allison – Thanks for stopping by. I’m not really paralyzed by it, I still have a couple of terms before I need to start thinking about where I’m going to go with all this. It’s good to plan early, right?

  3. Tough spot to be sure. I have never been to college. I knew that if I went after high school it would be a waste of money. I have often considered going since, but have little to no idea what for. That probably stems from my happiness in what I do now. I wish you to find that. I think you would do well to tell stories. I would hire you, sans degree. Unfortunately, it would be sans pay too 😉

    Find a startup you believe in with lots of VC that really needs help. I know that’s a tall order, but I think you would soar.

    • Hehe. Thanks. Yes, I would have a hard time working for sans pay. But I appreciate the confidence.

      I just have to figure out what it all looks like, I’m not getting any younger, or nicer. LOL

  4. This is a tough one. I think you’d be so successful as a free agent (here’s a guy that’s a customer service consultant http://www.customerfocusconsult.com), but I know from talking to you that this is a difficult path. My advice would be to do some Googling and fine a list of 5-10 of these people, and email all of them. If you don’t want to be totally independent, maybe they’ll have a good idea about what you could do.

    Also, the idea mentioned above about startups is a good one – they often have plenty of VC cash so you wouldn’t be working for free, just a hectic pace which might not be up your alley.

    But I’m going down the rabbit hole of jobs, without talking about the credentials. That’s because in my opinion, if you want to work at a big, old school corporation, you need the piece of paper. If you’re interested in more modern establishments, newer companies, or perhaps a specialized consulting agency, you have the Internet skills to establish your credibility without needing the paper.

    In fact, that’s my second piece of advice – no matter what you choose, I’d definitely beef up your web presence on your skill and what you can do. Why don’t you pretend you’re going to apply for jobs, maybe it will help you figure out the answer to your question. (And email some of those consultants!)

  5. One valid reason to get a degree is to get past the checkbox hurdles between you and the jobs you want. We both know that for lots of jobs, whether or not you have a degree has absolutely no bearing on whether you have (or can develop) the skills or ability to do the job… but the truth is that a majority of employers have degree requirements past a certain level. Can you succeed without a degree? Sure, though I think it’s generally tougher. You’re good at networking, though, and if anyone can make it up the ladder that way, you’re a good candidate!

    But if you’re going to put the time and energy into more schooling after your ABA, I think it’s kind of a waste to get a second Associates. If you’re sending in a resume for a job that wants you to have a Bachelors, 2 Associates degrees will probably not make the cut unless the applicant pool is small. At least, they aren’t likely to give you any advantage over just the ABA.

    Plus, I think that you might enjoy your classes more if you went for a Bachelors… instead of more introductory to intermediate coverage of a subject, you’d have the chance to go more in depth and specialized with a topic that interests you. You may have a better shot at finding one or two professors who could give you some guidance or community contacts in smaller 300 and 400 level courses, as well.

  6. Jessica Littrell

    Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re going to get very far with an Associates degree, and in the time you can complete another Associates degree you could get a Bachelors degree. Heck, even people with Bachelors degrees can have a hard time finding jobs, so your educational journey may be long from over, especially if you want to stay in the business world, and MBA or Masters degree is probably going to be necessary in this day in age.

  7. You’ve gotten so much great advice that I’m afraid that it’s going to muddy the waters for you. At the same time, I know that you have the time and the wisdom to sit and sift through it all and decide what serves you the best. And this is all REALLY great advice!

    I want you to know that no matter what you decide, you’re going to be an asset to your field. You say that you aren’t sure what your passion is, but make no mistake about it, you are passionate. And I think the reason that you have trouble deciding where you are most passionate is because there are so many things that you are and can be passionate about. Keep narrowing it down, Nick. I know you’ll find your place! And you’ll make it as unique and amazing as you are!

    You’re a hero to me, Nick! For many reasons, but one of those is that whether it’s through school or reading or discussion or relationships, you’re constantly making yourself stronger and better and smarter and wiser. You’re not just hunkering down, with your nose to the grindstone, to survive life. You are reaching for the stars and discovering new ones on the way. Keep at it, Nick! You’ll find your place among those stars!

    And thank you for letting us tag along for the journey!

    I *pink-fuzzy-heart* you, Nick! 🙂

  8. I found school to be very frustrating until my graduate classes. Like you, I went to college as a non-traditional student with more than a decade of work experience. One suggestion, and a possible short-cut to your BA/BS, is to look into the programs that allow credit for life experience. George Fox (which I don’t recommend for you, although I had a good experience there) and Marylhurst (which would be, in my opinion, a GREAT fit for you) both offer degree-completion programs.
    http://www.marylhurst.edu/learningassessment/plaprogram.php
    It is a non-traditional way for non-traditional students to tackle the challenges of life and education in an adult-centric environment.

    I agree with the comments above, a second AA/AS does not hold the same value as an ABA + BA/BS and the time commitment is similar.

    You will do great, no matter the path you choose. Just keep doing what you’re doing!

  9. I have your crystal ball… If you are graduating with an Associates Business Degree, I may have an opportunity for you. I have my information above so I hope it reaches you as I’m on my iPhone & not certain of the process; hopefully we can talk after 11/9 when I am back in the states.

  10. Nick- I have had the opposite educational experience. Out of high school I went to a 4 year private college and got my B.A. After working for a summer, I went back to community college to get a law enforcement certificate and then my EMT. A decade later, I changed professions and took classes for real estate (on cassette tapes) no less.
    What have I learned? There will be a lot of twists and turns in the road and you should be prepared to keep on learning. My dad has a Phd. which turned out not to be the career he hoped for, and mom has two masters degrees.
    My vote is to hit the road and work for a bit and when the time is right, go get your B.A. A B.A. is a nice pre-req to have, but there are plenty of gigs where talent and hard work are more appreciated. (I would skip the second AA idea. )

    PS. If you wanted to move to your favorite
    Bavarian theme town, we are probably looking for a new team member to join us.

    • Hehehe – Geordie, Thanks for the advice. I’m not sure a change in location is in the cards for me; however, maybe holding off on furthering the education is a good idea. Lots to think about as I come closer to graduation.

  11. Hey Nick….

    I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Fine and Applied Arts (Graphic Design). I could be making more money but I would likely need to go back to school and get a Masters. I can’t see that happening right now. 1) time with my son is precious 2) I don’t have a desire to be in debt. I like what I do although I can see where I could put some of my talents to better use but it’s not part of the picture right now. So, ask yourself what will bring you the most pleasure in life, because as ‘they’ say, love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. People we both know never attended a day of college and are earning a good salary… soul search. But ultimately, I think the answer is closer to you than you realize. I also think you excel at Customer Service already. You create a higher standard than most people aim for. Not much help but I really don’t think any of those Bachelor studies are who you are. I think you are who you are and all you need is a business plan to implement.

    • Hey Traci,

      Thanks for swinging by and offering some advice. It’s tough, mostly because those who we know, only are where they are because opportunities have allowed. I guess I just need to start making my own opportunities, right?

  12. *puts on Peer Advisor hat*

    Don’t bother with another Associates; that would only be helpful if your first one was an AGS.

    Before figuring out what to do once you get your ABS, you need to figure out where you want to be with your life in 5-10 years. You’ve already figured out what you enjoy doing. Look into careers that have those qualities. I know of a tool you have access to through MyPCC that could actually help with that, CIS. Then research those careers; find successful people within them & talk to them. See what’s more important in those fields: education, experience, or both. Also decide which is more important to you: happiness or money. Shoot for both, but since they don’t always go hand-in-hand, there must be priorities.

    Realistically, going forward with your Bachelor’s might be the wisest in this economy. You’re working, so you’re not hurting. You like learning & you’ll have a better chance of learning new stuff at University level. If you can avoid PSU, do it. I have yet to hear positive undergrad experiences from there. However, it can’t hurt to go ahead & get a Bachelor’s under your belt. I’d suggest Communications or Public Relations, or just continue on the Business route.

    • Yeah. *slumped shoulders* – That’s what I’ve heard about PSU, too. Mel, in other comments, mentioned some of the ADC programs. I may have to look at some of those. 🙂

  13. The reason for the above four degrees…. What are your passions and do you need a degree to fulfill those? Where do you see yourself in a year, five years? Do you need a degree as a stepping stone to where you see yourself at those points in time? Many of the best known entrepreneurs didn’t have a degree. If you want to be employable, you will need all the degrees you can get…too many probably won’t be enough in this day and age. If you want to be self-employed, will all those degrees matter? Probably not. If you continue your studies, where will those 4 disciplines take you…? Sorry but I have more questions than answers and most likely am only confusing your situation. From someone who doesn’t have a degree, I say continue your education no matter what.

    • Congratulations Betty! You’re my 600th Comment!

      That’s, I think, my problem. I’m not sure what I’m passionate about. At least in terms of a career. I really like what I do, but that’s changing daily. I know where my strengths lie, but they’re not valued in businesses, which make things far more difficult.

  14. Why haven’t you listed politics as an option?

    • Running for something, or running something?

      Running for something: I have a past that would probably personally resurrect the newsprint publishing industry. I don’t want to live through that.
      Running something: That’s not out of the question, which is why one of the four topics make so much sense.

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